By Carl Lisciandrello
Published: February 26, 2013
Residents in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties will face tighter watering restrictions starting March 13.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District‘s governing board voted Tuesday to enact the tighter controls as below-normal rainfall has resulted in
reduced river levels and increased water-supply concerns. The restrictions, which run through July 31, limit the watering of lawns to one day a week until rainfall and river levels increase, officials said. “For the last several months, we’ve watched the conditions decline,” district Chairman Paul Senft said. “If we do not receive significant rainfall in the coming months, we may have to extend these restrictions into other areas of the district. We ask residents to be conservative with their water use, especially outdoor irrigation.”
Currently, Hillsborough and city of Tampa residents are limited to watering twice a week before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Pinellas County has similar irrigation restrictions. Under the new restrictions, watering will be limited to once a week, on a specified day based on address. Micro-irrigation and hand-watering of non-lawn areas will be allowed any day; but like all irrigation, such activity must now occur only during designated hours (before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. unless otherwise specified by a stricter local ordinance). Car washing is limited to once per week, and fountain operation will be limited to four hours per day. There are no changes to the Phase I restrictions in place for other water uses, including agricultural irrigation, golf course operations, industrial processes or pressure washing.
The issue was brought up Feb. 18 at a board meeting of Tampa Bay Water, the agency that supplies drinking water to 2.3 million people in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco. Below-average rainfall and a reservoir under repair prompted Tampa Bay Water to recommend more watering restrictions to the district, board member Charlie Miranda said. “This is the time of the year when you have no rain or little rain,” Miranda said. “Something needs to be done.” Compounding the water shortage is the ongoing repairs to cracks in the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir, Miranda said. The reservoir, which stored water from the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay Bypass Canal, was drained in January for repairs. The structural problems that caused the cracks won’t be fixed until next year. When full, the above-ground structure with 50-foot-tall walls holds 15.5 billion gallons of water that could be used during droughts. And it’s been drier than usual, with Hillsborough getting only a total of 5.6 inches of rain since late September, said Granville Kinsman, a hydrologist for the water management district. “We should have had 10 inches of rainfall by now,” Kinsman said. Low rainfall also means that river and ground water levels have decreased, he said. The levels of the Withlacoochee River, Hillsborough River and Peace River – which feeds water into the region – decreased to below-normal levels last month, a district report said. Warm weather also could cause residents to start using more water earlier than usual. “Spring looks like it came early,” Kinsman said. “People are going out and buying plants and flowers. And they’ll need water.” For more information, visit the water district at WaterMatters.org/restrictions/.